New Delhi, Sept.20 (ANI): A few pointers that the APPD could do well to remember.
First, the delegation will have to convince the people that they are there to make a departure from the hallmark of Indian statecraft, which is to pretend to talk when pushed to the wall and forget about it when it is afforded breathing space.
Second, guard against the danger, individually and collectively, of repeating the mistake of every government in New Delhi. That mistake has been to look at Jammu and Kashmir through the predominant prism of the Kashmir Valley against the backdrop of the impact government policies may have on Muslim minority politics in the rest of India.
What every government has not realized is that the Kashmiri Muslim couldn't care less for the Muslims in the rest of India just as the Muslims, in the rest of India, couldn't care less for the Kashmiri Muslim. Were this not so, Kashmir would have been full of Indian Muslims answering the call of Jihad, instead of mercenaries from Pakistan.
Therefore, the APPD must not look at the issue only from the perspective of the Kashmir Valley. Admittedly, the problem is concentrated in 4-5 districts of the valley. These have to be the priority. But that should not mean that Jammu and Ladakh should not get a hearing. Any determination on the future of Jammu and Kashmir has to take into consideration the wishes of all regions and communities.
While in no way undermining the tragedy in the Valley, the APPD must remember that the voices of the valley are not the exclusive voices of Kashmir and certainly not of Jammu and Kashmir. There are other voices that need to be heard, those of the displaced Pandits from the valley, the Dogras of Jammu, the Sikhs, the non-Valley Muslims, the Gujjars, the Ladakhis and so on.
Third, the APPD should also not fall into the convenient trap of an economic package. It is easy to write a cheque and hope the problem will go away. It won't. On any socio-economic indicator, Jammu and Kashmir is one of the top states in India. An economic package can be a supplement but not the main driver of any solution. And in any case, before any more economic packages are conceived, their delivery must be ensured.
Fourth, while the 80-year-old Geelani has taken center-stage, the agitation is really about the youth. There are varying estimates, but according to one, over 70 per cent of the population is under 35.
Educated and tech savvy, fed on the mirage of Azadi and faced with a two decade long security clamp down, this generation is hardened and cynical. They will not be fobbed off by platitudes and empty political promises. They would need to see some tangible results.
The delegation must also realize that the jury is still out on the control that Geelani exercises on the protestors and separatists. It should not be forgotten that he has been the main stumbling block in forging separatist unity, much to the dismay of both the separatists and Pakistan.
There is a view that he is actually fronting for a new and more radical and extremist leadership that has seized the initiative and who are calling the shots on behalf of their masters across the border. Geelani has little choice but to go along least he be marginalized at the fag end of his career.
If Geelani's leadership is suspect, the so-called moderate separatists - Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik have definitely been marginalized. The duo is trying to claw their way back into the limelight but only by embracing hardline positions.
There is a Muslim non-separatist, non-radical constituency in the valley, too. The flip-flops of successive governments has ensured that they are too scared to come out in the open and risk their lives by articulating a contrary point of view. For the present, they have conceded political space to the vocal and militant, anti-India sections and flowing with the tide. The delegation must reach out to this constituency, too .
Fifth, the street protests and the cycle of violence is one part of the equation. The other part is that the mainstream political parties, despite the democratic victories of 2008, have in reality no space left today. They have been so marginalized as to have become almost irrelevant. It is amazing that the fruits of such credible elections could have been frittered away so soon, a record of sorts.
It has been the failure of the political class as a whole, led no doubt by the State Government, to build and consolidate on the gains of the 2008 elections and translate them into peace and security that is at the root of the present crisis.
While the National Conference and the PDP are self-destructing by taking potshots at each other, their elected representatives just do not have the courage to mobilise their supporters, in either Srinagar or other strongholds, to oppose the protest calendar of Geelani. Political space in the Valley has, in fact, been totally surrendered to the separatists.
The delegation must stress on the mainstream leaders and parties not to keep looking at the Centre alone for solutions and packages but re-start and activate political mobilisation to oppose the separate calendar.
This, as much as past electoral victory, would be the real test of their strength and popularity. Both the mainstream parties need to get their individual acts together and, though highly improbable, work with a common purpose to resist the continuous cycle of shut downs and violence.
In such a scenario, where there is no other alternative leadership, a frustrated and brutalised population has little option but to follow the protest calendar and shout azadi slogans in the diminishing hope that their anguish would at last touch someone who cares.
The eyes of the country, including Kashmir, will be on the APPD. They have an opportunity to make a break from the past and genuinely try and wipe the tears and pull the Valley from the abyss, for its own sake and for the sake of India. Will they? By Salim Haq (ANI)
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: This is Part-II of the article titled The Jammu and Kashmir situation: All Party Delegation. The views expressed in the above article are those of Mr. Salim Haq.